COURTS & LEGAL

Former Utah Jazz star John Stockton sues Washington medical director about COVID misinformation policy

Mar 12, 2024, 4:40 PM | Updated: Mar 13, 2024, 9:38 am

FILE: Former Utah Jazz John Stockton reacts during a 76-70 Wichita State win over the Gonzaga Bulld...

FILE: Former Utah Jazz John Stockton reacts during a 76-70 Wichita State win over the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the third round of the 2013 NCAA Basketball Tournament at EnergySolutions Arena on March 23, 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

TUMWATER, Wash. — Former Utah Jazz player John Stockton has filed a federal lawsuit against the Washington attorney general and executive director of the Washington Medical Commission for First Amendment violations, arguing the state’s policy of COVID-19 misinformation is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit, filed on March 7, lists Stockton as the lead plaintiff, with three retired Washington doctors and nonprofit anti-vaccine group Children’s Health Defense as the co-plaintiffs. The suit also lists one to 50 John and Jane Does, who are practicing Washington physicians.

The lawsuit refers to the Washington Medical Commission 2021 COVID-19 misinformation policy that was enacted to combat COVID-19 information.

Gonzaga suspends Stockton’s season tickets over mask rule

Part of the policy reads the commission would “scrutinize any complaints received about practitioners granting exemptions to vaccination or masks that are not based in established science or verifiable fact.” The commission also warned any “practitioner who grants a mask or other exemption without conducting an appropriate prior exam and without a finding of a legitimate
medical reason … may be subjecting their license to disciplinary action.”

The plaintiffs argue that the policy and the acts from the state violate their First Amendment rights.

Physician claims

According to the lawsuit, since September 2021, the Washington Medical Commission has “investigated, prosecuted, and/or sanctioned approximately 60 physicians … who speak out against the mainstream Covid narrative.”

The lawsuit claims that two of the three doctors, Richard Eggleston and Thomas T. Siler, were wrongly charged with professional misconduct by the state of Washington for their views on COVID-19.

The suit cites the doctors’ opposition to COVID-19 mandates, the safety of the mRNA vaccine, and the use of “off-label treatments such as Ivermectin” in the opinion columns of the Lewiston Tribune and AmericanThinker.com as the main reasons for their charges.

According to the lawsuit, Children’s Health Defense wants to educate “the public concerning the negative risk-benefit profile of the COVID shots for healthy children.” It claims that the state’s COVID-19 misinformation policy could target its members if they wish to express their views on COVID.

The lawsuit states: “The Commission’s actions in prosecuting physicians for speaking out against the mainstream Covid narrative has a chilling effect and will dissuade many physicians from providing their candid opinions.”

Instagram and Facebook suspended Children’s Health Defense in 2022 after the anti-vaccine group, founded by presidential candidate Robert Kennedy Jr., repeatedly violated rules prohibiting misinformation about COVID-19. The Associated Press reported that the group is one of the most influential anti-vaccine organizations active on social media, where it spread misleading claims about vaccines and other public health measures designed to control the pandemic.

Stockton’s involvement

The lawsuit states that Stockton is involved in “matters of public interest and has been a vocal advocate against the mainstream COVID narrative.”

“During the pandemic, he started co-hosting a podcast which deals with a wide variety of subjects, including COVID-19, health policy, the rights of individuals to make their own health and medical decisions, and sports,” according to the suit.

While Stockton hasn’t been directly affected by Washington’s COVID-19 policy, the lawsuit states he is suing because of his “belief that people have the First Amendment right to hear … Washington licensed physicians who disagree with the mainstream Covid narrative.”

The lawsuit lists Stockton as a resident in Spokane.

Kennedy is listed as one of the plaintiff’s lawyers, but as of April 2023, he is on leave as Children’s Health Defense’s chairman and chief legal counsel.

In November 2023,  Stockton endorsed Kennedy for his presidential run while on Fox News, citing the candidate’s track record of “standing up” against “the corruption displayed by big money, big tech (and) big pharma.”

The plaintiffs are seeking a declaration that the COVID-19 policy violates the First Amendment, as well as an injunction on the policy. They also seek attorney fees and other relief that the court deems.

Stockton has come out against COVID-19 vaccines, mask mandates and other protective measures. In June 2021, he participated in a documentary titled “COVID and the Vaccine: Truth, Lies and Misconceptions Revealed.”

In an interview with the Spokane newspaper, Stockton claimed without evidence that more than 100 professional athletes have died after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I think it’s highly recorded now, there’s 150 I believe now, it’s over 100 professional athletes dead — professional athletes — the prime of their life, dropping dead that are vaccinated, right on the pitch, right on the field, right on the court,” Stockton said.

Experts told the AP there is “no scientific evidence” that either COVID-19 or the mRNA vaccines have increased sudden cardiac arrest, often referred to as SCA, among athletes.

The false claim that large numbers of athletes are collapsing or dying due to COVID-19 vaccines has circulated on social media for months, particularly among anti-vaccine circles, and has been rejected by medical experts.

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Former Utah Jazz star John Stockton sues Washington medical director about COVID misinformation policy